North Dakota public officials want to focus on cleaning up trash at campsites near the Dakota Access Pipeline before determining how to pay for the cleanup.
Officials are worried warm weather and rapid snowmelt could cause floods around the campsites dotting the controversial project. They think the thousands of pounds of trash could pollute the Missouri River, among other waterways – officials are not concerned about how to pay for the cleanup.
“With the amount of people that have been out there and the amount of estimated waste and trash out there, there is a good chance it will end up in the river if it is not cleaned up,” Capt. Ryan Hignight, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, said in a statement about the government’s sense of urgency.
There’s enough garbage at the camp to fill about 2,500 pickup trucks, according to reports by federal officials. Morton County Emergency Manager Tom Doering stated garbage ranges from refuse to building debris to human waste.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, meanwhile, said the state will start adding more cleanup contractors by Thursday. He said federal and state officials won’t decide until later how to pay for the addition crews.
“I don’t want to sit around and argue about who’s going to pay for it while we’ve got buildings floating down the Missouri River,” Bergum said, referring to hundreds of shacks activists used for shelter during the demonstrations.
Doering said local officials hope President Donald Trump will declare the campsites a disaster area, opening the prospect of federal aid.
Sanitation crews are currently combing the campsites for dead bodies rolled up in tarps, and using bulldozers and earth-moving equipment to scrape the area clean of debris.
More than 10,000 activists and American Indian tribes settled at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers to derail the highly controversial DAPL, a pipeline that, once completed, will shuttle 500,000 barrels of Bakken oil from North Dakota to Illinois.
Standing Rock Sioux, one of the tribes opposing the multi-state project, believes the multi-billion project could poison the Missouri River and trample tribal grounds. Cultural surveys conducted last year by the Army Corps of Engineers, however, show the pipeline avoided tribal lands.
The tribe ordered occupiers to leave the area after the Obama administration rejected the nearly 2,000-mile long pipeline in December. Activists lingered in the area until President Donald Trump signed an order in January approving the DAPL.
Energy Transfer Partners, the company developing the multi-state oil pipeline, believes the last remaining feet of the 1,172-mile long line will be finished and put into operation by the end of June. Standing Rock and the Cheyenne Sioux are currently suing to prevent the pipeline’s completion.
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